Growing pains are expected for any youth movement and TCU football finds itself in that situation at the quarterback position.
The Frogs are taking an all-in approach with true freshman Max Duggan. He went 1-for-10 in the first half of his starting debut against SMU last month, but the team stuck with him in the second half. Duggan played better, but TCU still had a disappointing 41-38 loss to the crosstown rival.
Chalk it up as another learning and growing experience for a young quarterback. But coach Gary Patterson isn’t accepting of that. After all, he’s built a winning program in his 19-year tenure at TCU, so the expectation is to win.
“If you want to be average, then you’re OK with it,” Patterson said following Saturday’s game. “If you want to be great, you’re not OK with it. I wasn’t OK with Andy Dalton. I’m not OK with that.”
So Patterson and the coaching staff will continue looking for ways to get Duggan into a rhythm earlier. A solution could be going to a more up-tempo offense early on.
Duggan has played his best with an up-tempo approach. That’s the style he had so much success running at Lewis Central High in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
TCU went to the hurry-up in the second half of the SMU game, and Duggan threw three TDs. He had similar success when TCU went that route in the second half against Iowa State.
Granted, those teams were protecting significant leads at the time, but the up-tempo approach has worked well. At Iowa State on Saturday, TCU scored three points in the first half compared to 21 points in the second half.
Asked the difference, senior left guard Cordel Iwuagwu said: “We upped the tempo big time. Credit to them because they started blitzing more in the second half and we picked them up on a couple blitzes leaving the backs and receivers 1-on-1.”
Added Patterson: “Well, we started going down the field and I think they lightened up. They were making sure you don’t get beat deep. They didn’t apply pressure like they were early in the first half.”
Patterson deflected a question about whether Duggan is more comfortable in the up-tempo offense, saying he’d have to watch the film before giving a definitive answer.
But it’s an approach the Frogs may have to consider. Saturday saw them get off to a slow start once again offensively.
TCU has scored a touchdown on its opening offensive drive just once this season.
Iwuagwu seemed on board if up-tempo becomes the norm.
“We take pride in our physicality; if we have to do tempo, we have to do tempo,” Iwuagwu said. “It’s something we can very much do because we practice it all the time.”
It’s something Duggan has plenty of experience running too and he’s continuing to take strides each start.
Duggan finished 17-of-25 passing for a career-high 219 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions on Saturday. For the season, Duggan is 64-of-113 for 742 yards with nine TDs and no interceptions.
Fifth-year senior Alex Delton came in relief for a couple series during Saturday’s game, and junior Mike Collins remains an option. For now, though, all signs point toward Duggan being the guy going forward.
“Max is doing a great job in my opinion,” Iwuagwu said. “He’s still growing. He’s still a freshman. But right now as a starting quarterback we need him to play like that. He will keep growing.
“We have all the faith in him to do that.”